Look away, National League purists.
Coming out of this week’s Owners Meetings, Commissioner Rob Manfred was asked – as he is at least semi-annually – about where things stand on adding the designated hitter to the National League, so that it would match the rules of the American League.
His answer was notable:
Rob Manfred on the universal DH debate:
"I think that is a continuing source of conversation among the ownership group and I think that the dialogue actually probably moved a little bit.”#MLB
— David Lennon (@DPLennon) June 14, 2018
To be sure, that’s not Manfred saying the NL DH is coming, but we know that, by and large, owners have been opposed to the DH in the NL because – in addition to the purity hokum – it would add* 15 higher-paying positions to the roster in the NL, and could increase salaries slightly across all DH positions in the AL (and, by extension, all position players). So if that discussion has moved a little bit with the owners, that’s a pretty notable development.
With expansion looming, as well as a tense CBA negotiation down the road, it feels like a universal DH is going to come eventually. For me, because I want the leagues to just have equal rules, and because I do not believe the DH is going to go away in the AL after nearly 50 years of successful existence, that means I support the DH coming to the NL.
I also tend to think it makes for a more entertaining brand of baseball overall. Yes, it’s fun when a pitcher does something crazy at the plate, but 9 times out of 10, the pitcher does something ugly and un-entertaining. (To be clear: I’m not sure I personally mind watching pitchers hitting or the pinch-hitting situations it raises. I’m kind of agnostic about it. But I do want to see baseball continue to evolve with the times, and do what it can to improve. It’s my opinion that DH baseball is slightly more widely interesting. I could be wrong, but that’s where I am. And since I don’t hate the idea of the DH in the NL, I’m not going to fight aggressively to preserve the status quo. Bring on the DH.)
*Technically, it’s swapping out a bench spot for a starting DH, but the last guy on your bench tends to make less than a dedicated DH. Experiences will vary team-to-team, but we’re speaking in the aggregate and in the long-term, as the owners are thinking.